The gaming and sports betting industry in the world is one of the most dynamically developing sectors of the economy. What are the prospects for the future and where is Poland on this map?
Interview with Wojciech Włodarczyk, the president of IGT Poland Sp. z o.o .:
The lottery industry has always been an important branch of the economy, no matter what country we are talking about. In some it develops faster, in others it develops slowly. It is influenced by many factors, but legislation is certainly one of the most important. In Poland, thanks to the amendment to the gambling law in 2017, the development of this area has gained momentum. This is confirmed by the very good results of Totalizator Sportowy.
Answering the question of where Poland is on the world gaming map, I try to never compare the results of one country to another, because it is such a specific industry that you can never make a 1: 1 statement. In one country, lotteries are owned by private companies with state licenses (e.g. in the Czech Republic), in another the state is the sole owner (as in Poland). The very fact of ownership causes a completely different approach to business and there are always good and bad sides to it. It is worth emphasizing, however, that the revenues of the global gaming market in 2018 amounted to nearly EUR 400 billion, and the estimates of further growth are very optimistic. That is why this industry is developing and, in my opinion, will continue to develop intensively. Also, and maybe mainly thanks to new technologies.
Gaming is associated only with … young people playing computer games or on Playstation consoles, which is a big simplification. How does it look in the lottery industry?
It is true that typical gaming is associated mainly with young people. First of all, because it is strongly associated with new technologies, and a large part of the 60+ generation grew up at a time when they were not available. Hence a completely different hobby than for example computer games.
But the lottery industry itself is perceived completely differently. There are players who regularly play since the very beginning of the Totalizator Sportowy’s existence, which is from the 1950s. It should be emphasized that due to recent changes and general technological transformation that the Polish lottery undergoes, for example the introduction of the game via the Internet, the age range of customers is expanding to include younger players.
What are the obstacles and threats to the further development of this industry in our country?
In Poland, the sole owner of the lottery is the state. If there are no restrictive legal solutions that hinder the development of the Polish lottery market, I would rather look at its further development and not be afraid of threats. Especially with such intense business activities that Totalizator Sportowy currently conducts, including the recent launch of an online casino and the sale of lottery games via the internet.
You worked in IGT branches in the Czech Republic, Ireland and Portugal, among others, taking part in the creation of systems for local lotteries, including the most technologically advanced Finnish lottery OY Yeikkaus AB. Do you currently implement the solutions used there in Poland and are we far from other lotteries?
I have been managing the Polish branch of IGT since 2010. Earlier I worked for foreign clients of the company, but I have always closely watched our domestic market. I can say with full responsibility that we have nothing to be ashamed of. Poland has always been at the forefront of the lottery in terms of technological solutions and implemented games. An example that I have already cited is the introduction of the game via the Internet. Some may think that it is very late, because the gambling market has been moving from the traditional channel to the network for some time. But we must remember that this is a very slow process (in general, all changes in the lottery industry are rather evolutionary rather than revolutionary), because the regulations in both Europe and other continents strictly regulate this area and significantly limit the pace of development. Mainly afraid of lowering standards in the application of responsible gaming rules. For comparison, the leading American market in the lottery field began the process of changes aimed at enabling players to play via the Internet (so-called iGaming) in individual states, only in 2011.
And if it’s no secret, which companies from the gaming and sports betting industry IGT Poland currently supports, and to what extent?
IGT provides its technological solutions to most lotteries and casinos in the world (we estimate that we support some 80% of the market). I can say without false modesty that due to many years of experience and large development expenditures, we are a giant in this area.
In Poland, our only customer is Totalizator Sportowy. But this is only part of the activity of our Warsaw branch. A few years ago, the company invested millions of dollars in our country in one of the world’s largest technology centers for the lottery industry. We currently employ over 300 people. Every year, we export IT services worth more than PLN 80 million to the lottery from around the world (we recently won a tender for the supply of an online lottery system in Brazil and this project will be partly carried out from Warsaw). Following this success, 2 years ago IGT also opened a unique shared services European Operations Center in Poland. It is the only center in Europe from which we manage on-line systems remotely for several lotteries (among others in Belgium, Sweden, Luxembourg and of course in Poland).
Do the tasks you carry out also mean that you have to place special requirements on your employees? For example, do they have a professional secret?
We are a technology company so we are primarily looking for people with technical education. But due to the specifics of our industry, a high work ethic is equally important to us. There is no room for negligence or lack of accuracy in the performance of duties. My favorite comparison is that if 3 PLN is “lost” in the bank, then 3 PLN is missing. If in the lottery system a coupon bought for PLN 3 would “disappear”, it could always be the prize worth several million. This is not allowed to happen. That is why precision and responsibility are the main features of our employees.